How to Balance Trust and Safety in Digital Monitoring

parents, online, content, trust, safety, teens

Malware, spyware, online predators, phishing, etc. – your child faces these threats each time they log in to their device. The internet can be a devious place, with questionable content tucked into its darker corners.  As parents, you are inclined to install every safety measure possible to protect your children from harm.

Sure, these precautions are imperative for younger, elementary school-aged children. However, as kids become teens – chances are they won’t want you tracking their movements, monitoring their online activity, and/or filtering their content. To them, it is a breach of their privacy and a lack of trust. Perhaps this sentiment is merely a front for content they are trying to hide, but let’s not start off too skeptical. Psychologist Michael Rubino has worked with teens and families for 20 years; he says teenagers often ask, “If they want me to be responsible, how can I be responsible if they do not give me a chance?”

This in turn often leaves parents with the question: How do I walk the line between trusting and monitoring my teen?

It is possible.


In most cases, parents buy their child’s device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) and parents pay for the data service. Thus, it is important to remind your kid that their screentime is a privilege and thus can be taken away. Although this seems rather authoritarian, it is a point often taken for granted.

On a lighter note, the following includes more collaborative practices for establishing trust, while maintaining your child’s safety:

1. Transparency

“Spying” is masked with an incredibly negative connotation that lies in deception and secrecy. Tracking all of your child’s online activity without their knowledge already diminishes the chance of parent-child relationship built on trust.

It is best to tell your child of the x,y, z security measures you have installed to avoid feelings of betrayal, and later retaliation. By being frank with your child, you are establishing an openness intended to be respected/reciprocated. It sends the message: “Hey, I think these security measures are necessary. I can see what you’re doing. I’m giving you the responsibility to make decisions, and I’m holding you accountable for them.”

2. Compromise

48% of parents have read through their teen’s messages, and 61% monitor their browser history. However, this does not encourage an atmosphere of trust. A recent NYT article Should You Spy on Your Kids? claims: “A parent who constantly micromanages a teenager’s life — Why did you stop here? Why did you go there? — risks stifling the independence needed to develop into an adult.”

Please, do allow your child more freedom as they move through elementary school and onto middle and high school – but this does not mean you have to relinquish all responsibilities as the protectorate. Oscar Wilde once said, “With age come wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” Although a bleak statement, this lends to the more moderate notion: although the transition from child to young adult marks a large jump in maturity, there is still a lot to be learned.

To foster a relationship built on mutual trust, discuss trade-offs. This can be as simple as being “friends” on Facebook or keeping Location Services on, but no reading through messages. When approached correctly, these tools should need not feel intrusive.

3. Talk Boundaries   

First and foremost, teach your children how to properly use technology as with great power, comes great responsibility. Impart digital literacy and digital citizenship practices and make clear what sites should and should not be accessed. Set ground rules and discuss expectations with your young adult as soon as possible: this includes individual screen time limits as well as restrictions on interacting with others on online platforms. In doing their part, parents should also be aware of the current technological climate.

On the other hand, if your teen is sharing a part of their world with you (being friends/sharing updates on social media) show the same respect by being courteous and following online etiquette: do not comment on every post, do not like every photo, etc. Check out this guide “How Parents Should Approach Their Teens on Social Media” for helpful tips to navigating this fairly new type of relationship.

4. Data Usage/Limits

Relative to the other practices, this is quite simple. Parents can set the data plan through their wireless provider to limit their teen’s browsing and app usage. This includes specifications like (1) app access only through Wi-Fi or (2) blocking texts, calls, and browsing during a designated time. These simple implementations limit access to online content (and also saves money), while still giving teens the freedom they crave.

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How to Be a Digitally Aware Parent in 2017

parents, children, screen time, online safety

Kids are trading in swing sets for headsets and see-saws for Slither. There are apps developed specifically for 1-year-olds, and on average, a child receives their first smartphone at the age of 10. It’s 2017 – parents must be cognizant of the virtual playground, just as they looked on while their children scaled the jungle gym.

This constant influx of technology – and at increasingly younger ages – poses a variety of risks for children that range from compromised cybersecurity to impaired cognitive development. However, the best way for parents to ensure online child safety is to be digitally literate and digitally aware themselves. And here’s how:

1. Know the Trends

To understand your child’s device habits, it’s important to know what types of content they are consuming.  For parents who feel that monitoring browser history is too overbearing, this is a less intrusive way to gain insight into what type of material their kids are exposed to. Business Insider surveyed a large group of teens to see what the biggest trends were among young adults this past year.

App Annie regularly reports top download apps and games by category: social networking, kids, entertainment, etc. Google Trends reports top searches and YouTube populates the most viewed videos on their home page.

2. Use Your Resources

The US government has compiled a list of resources centered around cybersafety and cyberbullying prevention. Additionally, there are a variety of tools available that are designed to help parents monitor and protect their children online at all times:

Web filters block inappropriate content, protect from malware, and can detect instances of bullying or self-harm. For full coverage, these apps allow parents to track and regulate their kid’s activity undetected. Google’s My Activity feature compiles watch and search history across all Google Apps, including YouTube. It also tracks devices, where they have been, and what apps you have used; these settings are adjustable. Although controversial, checking your child’s “My Activity” is a free way to follow their digital footprints.

 

3. Engage With Your Child

Younger Children

A recent study focused on how toddlers learn from touchscreens. Researchers observed the difference in a child’s retention and reproduction of a puzzle pattern when the puzzle-assembly tutorial was (1) demonstrated by a “ghost demonstration” on a tablet and (2) performed by an adult sitting next to them. The results: “The 2- and 3-year-olds who saw the ghost demonstration had a hard time replicating the task — but did well after they saw the human hand. Researchers concluded that having a human guide — often referred to as having social scaffolding — helped these young children learn.”

Young Adults

Reassign the hours usually devoted to scrolling through social media apps or online shopping in for a “device-free”, family activity time: start a project with your children, decide upon a book to read together, or introduce a regular time to catch-up and talk about your day. Being attuned to your child’s behavior on-and-off screen is an integral part of keeping them safe. Many young adults fall victim to cyberbullying and serious consequences may ensue. However, many teens do not reach out for help;. Spotting the signs early through shifts in your child’s behavior can prevent the devastating consequences, and ensure they are receiving the proper support they need.

Signs your child may be experiencing cyberbullying:

  • Becomes withdrawn
  • Suddenly stops using the computer
  • Loses interests in hobbies once enjoyed
  • Stops using computer or dims the screen when someone is nearby
  • More can be found here

4. Connect with Other Parents

Many parents have the same concerns when it comes to privacy and internet safety. CommonSense Media, a non-profit that works to promote safe technology usage, has created a trusted forum for parents to voice their concerns. Parents can both “Ask an Expert” and receive guidance from other parents. The forum is segmented by age group.

parents, children, screen time, safety

 

5. Set Guidelines for both Parents and Kids

In 2016, parents spent a daily average of 9 hours and 22 minutes interacting with some sort of screen media. About 8 of these hours were devoted to recreational use. To effectively set screen time boundaries for children, parents must lead by example and consciously make an effort to forgo picking up their device.  Set “no-phone zones”, schedule outdoor activity time, and impose daily screen time limits. Also, make sure that children do not use their device directly before bedtime; studies have shown that this disrupts sleep patterns and can lead to poor academic performance.

It’s especially important to limit screen time during early stages of development. Check out these new guidelines for screen time exposure by age group, abridged from an American Academy of Pediatrics report.

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How to Use Technology to #EndCyberbullying

cyberbullying, students, school, technology

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but the recent proliferation of social media harassment merits its own name. Cyberbullying is unique in that aggressors can be safely situated behind a screen in their own homes, while victims are subject to its effects at school, at home, and everywhere in between. It is pervasive and relentless, as what is posted online can resurface anytime.

Although cyberbullying is a direct result of increased device usage, we can use technology to our advantage to prevent, detect, and act against cyberbullying.

Prevent

Common Sense Media introduced Common Sense Education’s K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum to help educators and school administrators teach proper online behavior, digital citizenship best practices, and educate students on the consequences of cyberbullying. The curriculum includes eight modules ranging from Privacy & Security to Cyberbullying & Digital Drama to Self-Image & Identity.

They have created engaging online student interactive games – “digital games to tackle real-world dilemmas” – for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 to instill good technology habits. This toolkit is free and available to everyone online via Downloadable PDFs, Nearpod, and iBooks.

ReThink Words, created by student Trisha Prabhu, is a patent-pending software that 1) uses context-sensitive filtering technology to determine if a post may be harmful and 2) asks the user to reconsider posting the potentially damaging message. Research shows that 93% of the time, students do not follow through with the post after being asked to ReThink.

Detect

Our own sentiment-analysis based technology – Auditor by Securly uses Natural Language Processing & Artificial Intelligence algorithms to detect any signs of harassment or self-harm in Gmail. Through Delegated Administration, we then directly alert school guidance counselors and principals of suspicious student online activity. Parents are notified ASAP with email reports and through the Parent Portal.

This technology serves a dual-purpose: eliminating bullying and intervening in self-harm/suicide cases. The two facets are related by a causal relationship termed “Cyberbullicide” by the American Public Health Association. Mark Nelson, IT Admin of Romeo Community Schools, remarks, “Of the many features distinguish Securly, none are so important as Sentiment Analysis.  We have contacted school counselors four times to make them aware of alarming posts by teenagers, so they could intervene with students and parents.  The avoidance of a single tragedy with one of our students makes Sentiment Analysis invaluable.”

Act

Using STOPit!, students can anonymously report cyberbullying in real-time – empowering them to stand up for themselves and their peers. Students can send photos, videos, or screenshots as evidence of cyberbullying through two-way anonymous messaging to school administration. The app also includes access to a 24-hour crisis center.

In India, a new anti-cyberbullying initiative revolves around a single hashtag: #IamTrolledHelp. This policy allows victims of cyberbullying to use this hashtag or send an email reporting cases of online harassment; the government then investigates each case. The Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, started this new protocol in response to the climbing cyberbullying rates aimed at women and children. For example, singer Chinmayi Sripaada was bombarded with threats of rape and violence – her case led to India’s first arrests for cyberbullying.

U.S.-based Taruna Aswani used Facebook to out her international blackmailer, publicly posting screenshots of emails she received that threatened to leak nudes and intimate content if she did not perform sexual acts for him. She is now working with the cyber crime deputy commissioner to track down the hacker, and has received hundreds of messages from other girls thanking her for inspiring them to speak out against their bullies.

Get involved during National Cyberbullying Prevention Month and join the movement to #EndBullying today! To find out more information on bullying prevention, check out the following resources:

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The 4 Main Types of Cyberbullying Across the Country

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16% of kids have cyberbullied their peer(s), reports a recent Cyberbullying Research Center study. More often than not, these bullies are motivated by their own anger and frustration. Technology provides refuge and anonymity for such behavior, empowering kids to do and say things they would otherwise not do in person.

From our analysis of 500K social media posts, we found that the majority of aggressive online posts could be broken into the four main categories listed below in order from most frequent to least frequent:

1. Namecalling/Harassment

  • “you’re a f***ing rat close yo mouth and your legs no disrespect tho.”
  • “yea you should hate yourself. as you f***ing should stupid hoe.”

2. Relationship Drama

  • “funny af how you talk s**t about my best friend right in front of me making it seem like yall wanna talk to me… there’s no need for yall to be talking s**t behind her back.  claiming that you ain’t fake and s**t.. bitch f***ing please. you f***ing snake.”
  • “@—— you can go f**k yourself and leave @—— alone…you obviously are jealous. she’s much nicer and better than your lying fake a**.”
  • “@—— stupid mother f***ing dumb a** b***h why don’t you just go have sex with some girls since you’re “famous”

3. Body Image/Looks

  • “if you’re a whore or look like one and you end up showing your slutty-ness and it winds up on my timeline…i will call you a whore and then unfriend you. with no regrets”
  • “she looks like a f***ing jew to me”

4. Threats

  • “fools gonna get beat today. i tried to warn people about lying, they just don’t want to believe me. ha. don’t f**k around with me…”

We also found that certain characteristics differ geographically across the US: students on the East Coast seem to be far more aggressive and confrontational on social media. Namecalling/Harassment posts occur about 14% more on the East Coast than on the West Coast.

Although the reason for this is unclear, it may be due to the lack of a national cyberbullying law. No federal law directly addresses bullying; legislation was introduced in 2009, but no action has been taken since. However, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (2000) requires schools to 1) monitor their students’ online behavior and 2) outline a plan to educate students on proper online behavior. Thus, each state has created their own laws and preventative measures to discourage bullying and online harassment.

Cyberbullying Laws Across the Country

The majority of West Coast states include cyberbullying in their bullying laws, while many East Coast and Midwest states do not. Georgia, Kentucky, and Nebraska have proposed including cyberbullying measures in their current policies.

State bullying laws, updated January 2016

Includes “cyberbullying” Does not include “cyberbullying”
Arkansas

California

Connecticut

Florida

Hawaii

Illinois

Kansas

Louisiana

Maine

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Missouri

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

Oregon

Rhode Island

Tennessee

Utah

Virginia

Washington

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Colorado

Delaware

Idaho

Indiana

Iowa

Maryland

Mississippi

Montana

New Jersey

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

South Dakota

Texas

Vermont

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

For more information on cyberbullying laws across the country, the Cyberbullying Research Center released a brief review which compares bullying laws by state.  A more comprehensive explanation of each state’s policy can be found on stopbullying.gov.

 

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Crying Out for Help in 140 Characters or Less

 “If I die tonight, would anyone cry?”  Amber Cornwell published this post soon before committing suicide in December of 2014.

Social media is the modern-day soliloquy; kids are now more likely to lament emotional distress or seek help via online platforms. Through Machine Learning techniques, we found that Twitter was the overwhelming favorite for kids to vent emotions: 71% of flagged activity* are tweets. However, it is through these same platforms that cyberbullying occurs.

30% of flagged posts* are direct forms of cyberbullying. Interestingly, ⅓ of all students have experienced some type of online harassment.  Teens exposed to cyberbullying are 2.4 times more likely to entertain suicidal notions. Certainty of this causal relationship is demonstrated by terms like “cyberbullicide”, as used in an American Public Health Association study.

Social media interactions can provide a look into a teen’s life, yet red flags are largely ignored due to the casual nature of online culture. Mean comments and threats are posted online all the time; this problem has proliferated into a cyberbullying epidemic, one that large social media platforms are struggling to mitigate. Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, admitted, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.”

 

Common Sense Media’s “5 Ways to Stop Cyberbullies”. Although this is a great guide for handling cyberbullying, there is a larger issue that still needs to be solved.

 

Amber was a victim of cyberbullying. So was Thomas Mullaney, and many others who decided to take their own life as a result. To reduce teen suicide and depression, we must eliminate a major root cause: bullying.

This month is National Bullying Prevention Month, a movement to stop bullying and cyberbullying once and for all. To learn more about how to get involved in with your local community’s bullying prevention initiatives, click here.

*Of 500,000 social media posts, 1 in 50 posts were flagged for suspicious behavior related to drugs, profanity, cyberbullying, threats, depression, or suicide.

 

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month

This year marks the 10th anniversary of National Bullying Prevention Month. Since 2006, the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center has launched nationwide campaigns to combat bullying during the month of October. In 2010, they introduced plans for cyberbullying prevention. Through community building events and education initiatives, they work to eliminate the notion that bullying is a “rite of passage” that makes kids tougher – as it actually results in devastating consequences such as decreased self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and suicide.   

In the past, PACER has partnered with companies like Disney and TLC to build upon their national campaign and amplify its message across multiple platforms to different age groups.

“You are Braver, Stronger and Smarter Than You Think” was a public service announcement produced for National Bullying Prevention Month by Disney in 2015.

 

How to Get Involved

PACER and community partners host events across the country throughout the month of October. “Run, Walk, Roll, Against Bullying” takes place in 12 different cities, and the symbolic “Unity Day” will be held on Wednesday, October 19.

They also provide online resources, including Classroom and Community Toolkits. Teachers and parents are encouraged to utilize these materials to promote conscientious behavior among their students and foster a supportive environment.

Multiple organizations work in tandem to eradicate bullying and its consequences. Stomp Out Bullying, the national anti-bullying and cyberbullying prevention organization, created Blue Shirt Day: World Day of Bullying Prevention which asks communities to stand in solidarity for anti-bullying by wearing blue clothing on the first Monday of each October.

 

To find out more information on bullying prevention and how you can join the movement, check out the following resources:

 

8 Reasons Why Students Like Securly Web Filtering

cloud based web filtering, edtech, parental controls, school web filter, cyberbullying, web filter

The following are real student responses from an international survey we conducted during Summer 2015.

1. “You don’t get rude ads or viruses.”

Pop-ups and pseudo-content are not only annoying, but also often times dangerous.  Online aggressors specifically target children, enticing them to click on attractive advertisements or links leading to viruses.  YouTube launched “YouTube Kids” in response to this problem as an addition to their existing safety setting, YouTube Restrictive Mode.  But what about the rest of the internet?  Web filtering helps keep students safe online and protects from “intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware”.

 

2. “It keeps us safe from other people that we don’t know.”

Students are protected from dicey websites and chat forums notorious for online predators.  This, combined with social media privacy settings – such as regulating who can comment on a post/video– reduces the risk of your child encountering internet users with malicious intent.

See the Parental Control Quick Guide for more information on keeping youth safe online.

 

3. “It protects people from cyberbullying.”

Web filtering can block social media sites where cyberbullying frequently occurs, but in today’s tech-integrated environment these sites are important for school-wide communication; and thus, counterproductive to restrict.  Securly includes a Bullying and Self Harm Detection feature with sentiment analysis that alerts parents and admins of possible cyberbullying/indications of harmful behavior.

 

4. “A big thing I agree with is stopping us from getting sidetracked…it can be hard in class when we are on the internet to not get distracted.”

Admins can set time limits on specific sites to help keep students on track and productive; in fact, over 50% of students admitted to being sidetracked while working on school assignments whether on or offline.  Another student remarked, “Web filtering is good because if things weren’t filtered, personally I wouldn’t have done as well in school.  I would be more interested in talking to my friends over social media while they were in different classes.”  

 

5. “It’s extremely useful to monitor and prevent younger kids from seeing all that the internet has to offer.”

Web filtering first and foremost protects children from violence, porn, and other unsavory content.  Students (especially with younger siblings) agree that this is a necessary and useful tool in preventing premature exposure.  Securly’s powerful web filtering technology filters out unsuitable material and language, and even goes as far as disabling YouTube comments on a child’s account.

 

6. “It provides an environment to practice hacking and getting around the rules.”

Definitely a different perspective, but still a valid point!  Apparently, persistent students are learning about the technology behind the filter… looks like web filtering is also creating future developers.  

 

7. “It provides safety throughout the whole school for everyone.  And as well as making us children feel safe whilst using the internet, it also helps parents to know their child is safe whilst browsing.”

Securly offers an interactive comprehensive report which complies top accessed categories, websites, and key search phrases by kids.  Admins are able to see how students are using devices at home versus in school.  It’s quite simple for admins to make changes to the filter settings on the user dashboard.

In addition, Securly cloud based web filtering also extends to the home.  Schools with 1:1 programs are able protect their students anywhere.

 

8. “It stops anything that may be dangerous from happening.”

Some students have such faith in the power of web filtering!  Learn more about Securly web filtering features here.

 


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What Students Are Actually Doing Online

Youtube Safety Mode, online safety, Youtube for schools, safe social media, safe search, cyberbullying

Curious as to how children are spending their time online?  So are we.  We surveyed 400+ students to find out just how kids ages 9-18 are using their display devices.

On average, students spend about 5-10 hours per day on their device(s) (smartphone, iPad, laptop, etc).  This of course varies by age group: we found that younger teens (aged 13-15) spend the most time in front of their screens in comparison to other age groups.  Children typically receive their first cell phone around age 12, which explains this heightened usage distribution.

Students from around the world reported using their devices for the following activities (time allocation in descending order): Social Media, Schoolwork, Entertainment, Gaming.

 

1. SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook is the most visited social media network, used even by children younger than the age restriction.  Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr also have a large following of adolescent subscribers.  These sites are intended to be a harmless way to connect with peers.  However, 1/3 of our survey participants experienced cyberbullying and 43% of students have been harassed online according to a recent DoSomething.org nationwide study.  

Common Sense Media outlines the top social media websites/apps of 2016 and what to be aware of for online safety purposes.

2. SCHOOLWORK

As technology becomes fully integrated into the classroom and 1:1 programs are on the rise, students have reason to spend even more time online.  Students use search engines and databases for research projects, and sites like Khan Academy for video walkthroughs of educational material.

However, 53.6% of students admitted to being sidetracked half of the time while working on school assignments –distributing this “procrastination time” among the other three activities.

 

3. ENTERTAINMENT

Kids are especially adept at surfing YouTube.  Five minutes spent browsing the site can easily turn into a few hours.  The related search algorithm automatically delivers a multitude of videos for the user, based on their search history.  YouTube offers tutorials, funny videos, music, and really anything you can think of.  According to  “What Kids Are Really Watching on YouTube”,  children are spending most of their time watching gaming tutorials, fashion/make up bloggers, Minecraft, and “challenge videos” (i.e. the “Cinnamon Challenge”, in which YouTubers try to eat an entire spoonful of cinnamon at one time).

TV/movie streaming sites such as Netlifx, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are also popular among youth.  Instant access to entire TV series listings allows kids to finish an entire season in one sitting, called “binge watching”.

 

4. GAMING

Lastly, children –especially younger audiences– tend to use their devices for online gaming.  Top game sites include Nick.com, PBS Kids, CoolMathGames, and GirlsGoGames.  Among older users, free-to-play multiplayer online battle games like “League of Legends” are common.

 

Many of these sites do include safety features (including safe search, restricted mode, YouTube Restricted Mode, etc.) and parental controls.  See the Parental Control Quick Guide for tips on how to enable these built-in functions.

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Cyberbullying Prevention for the Classroom

cyberbullying, online student safety, child safety

Online harassment continues to increase each year.

As cyberbullying rates reach an all time high among young adults, what are parents and teachers to do?

Yes, Anti-Bullying Laws do exist and cyberbullying is ILLEGAL!  Laws vary by state, but cover the necessities.  According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, while only 23 states directly mention “cyberbullying”, 48 states include protection against electronic harassment.  These laws essentially grant school systems authority to enact mandatory cyberbullying prevention policies and decide upon appropriate consequences.  Stopbullying.gov believes there are 11 key components (shared by each state’s anti-bullying laws) to consider when creating an anti-cyberbullying strategy.  

Though seemingly verbose, these components are quite simple and perfectly adaptable to everyday classroom culture.  See below for the *top items to share with your students:

Purpose Statement = Why do we need cyberbullying laws?

1 in 10 students grades 6-12 experienced cyberbullying and 15% of high school students were bullied last year.

Explain to your students why these laws are necessary, and the effects of cyberbullying.  Students who are cyberbullied are more likely to struggle personally and in school.  Bullying can worsen feelings of rejection, isolation, depression, etc. which can lead to suicidal behavior.

Statement of Scope = How far do cyberbullying laws reach, and should they?

Most cyberbullying occurs away from school grounds.

Explain to students that no matter the location, cyberbullying is still criminal and under the jurisdiction of school policy.

Over 25% of states have specified that schools are able to discipline students for incidents that endanger the learning environment off campus.  Federal law allows them to do so; a variety of Supreme Court cases rule in favor of school authority.

Specification of Prohibited Conduct = What actions count as cyberbullying?  

Clearly define and provide examples of what qualifies as cyberbullying.  

It seems that many students are unsure about the concept, even casually writing off teasing and taunting online as the norm.  Sending a mean or threatening text, posting hurtful words/images, and impersonating someone online are all considered cyberbullying to a certain extent.  For a more extensive list, see here.

Enumeration of Specific Characteristics = What topics should one avoid?

Harassment need not be based on a specific characteristic to be considered bullying.  Mockery of differentiating factors –race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation– should not be tolerated.

North Carolina: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-407.15(a) (2010): “Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”

Communication Plan = How can students report cyberbullying?  What are the consequences? How will parents, faculty, and students be involved?

Alert students and parents of the cyberbullying policy and how to get help.

Students should feel safe reporting instances of cyberbullying, and schools should provide avenues of seeking help – hotlines, guidance counselors, etc.  The student body, as well as their parents, should be notified of the cyberbullying policy and consequences of violation.

Take for example a San Ramon Middle School’s policy.  Their “communication plan” lists examples of cyberbullying, consequences (from a minimum of suspension to a maximum of expulsion), and the appropriate supporting education codes.

Training and Preventative Education = What can I do prevent cyberbullying?

The more you know about cyberbullying and how to handle it, the easier it will be to implement prevention methods!  Schools must equip their staff with the tools to stop the bullying at the source!

Stopbullying.gov provides training modules for community leaders, teachers, bus drivers, etc.  Technology-based solutions are also available for schools to utilize

In addition, teach students to be good digital citizens and respectfully utilize online resources.
*Missing components from Stopbullying’s analysis include Development and Implementation of LEA Policies, Components of LEA Policy, Review of Local Policies, Transparency and Monitoring, Statement of Rights to Other Legal Resources

Much is to be considered when creating overarching anti-cyberbulling measures, and schools try their best.  However, keeping your kids safe from cyberbullying starts at home.  Implementing social media safety measures and monitoring your child’s online activity are just some of the many ways to do so.  For other good resources on cyberbullying prevention check out the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.  

 

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Taking a Safe Approach to Online Activity

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By Tom Walker

SafeSearch, parental controls, safe image search, home internet security, kids safe search

A piece of advice I always give people in regard to their online activity is to be mindful of the sites they visit. This is especially true in the K-12 space, where we need to be careful of the content that our students can access. Here are some tools and suggestions to stay safe while living online.

1) Safe Searching

Google SafeSearch

Google SafeSearch is a filter built within Google that can be turned on or off at a user’s discretion. As Google says, “The SafeSearch filter isn’t 100% accurate, but it helps you avoid most adult content.” At our school district, the SafeSearch filter is turned on by default for the students and cannot be turned off. At home, if you are worried about what videos or images may appear while you or your children browse, SafeSearch can be helpful at avoiding objectionable material. The SafeSearch setting can also be locked if you have children that use your computer at home.

Bing SafeSearch

Microsoft’s Bing also offers a SafeSearch setting. The SafeSearch within Bing can also be turned on and off, but has a moderate setting as well. When in strict mode, Bing will filter adult oriented text, images, and videos from the searches. In moderate mode, Bing will filter adult oriented images and videos, but does not filter any text. The third setting turns SafeSearch off. Much like Google, Bing states that their SafeSearch, “won’t catch everything.”  However, Bing does include a link to a form that can be filled out that sends a support ticket to Microsoft regarding objectionable content that comes through the filter.

Yahoo SafeSearch

Yahoo also offers a SafeSearch filter, much like Google and Bing. Yahoo makes a similar statement, “While SafeSearch won’t catch everything, most adult content won’t show up in your search results.” The Yahoo SafeSearch also offers strict, moderate, and off settings as well. Like Google, the Yahoo SafeSearch can also be locked.

 

2) Safe Browsing

Google offers a service called Google Safe Browsing which is provided in the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers. This service contains a list of URLs that are known phishing or malware websites. The nice thing is that Google Safe Browsing is built-in protection. When a user comes across a known malicious website using one of those browsers, a notification is displayed warning the user that the website may contain malware.

Microsoft offers a similar built-in service called SmartScreen, which was introduced with Internet Explorer 8. It is still a key component of the new Microsoft Edge browser that comes with the recently released Windows 10.

 

3) Safe Clicking


In my experience as an IT director, some of the worst issues tend to come from those who click questionable links while surfing the web. Doing so not only opens up the potential for viruses, but your private information can be subject to being stolen. It sounds menial, but pay attention to what you click and what you open. This is especially important now that ransomware attacks have increased in the last couple of years. This is a good conversation to have with your students and children as well. Don’t be — click happy!

 

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